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Anil Kapoor: Flying high and fabulous

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HAVING more than four decades of incredible cinema achievements hasn’t lessened Anil Kapoor’s desire to take on more challenges.

Instead of basking in the glory of a glittering film career, one of the greatest Indian movie stars of all time is hungrier than ever, and continues to push the creative horizons with an impressive variety of projects.

The legendary actor is following up a winning performance in the acclaimed Indian web series The Night Manager and superhit film Animal with this year’s first big-budget Bollywood release Fighter. He takes on the role of an air force commanding officer in the latest film from War and Pathaan director Siddharth Anand. The versatile performer stars alongside Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone in the story of Indian Air Force officers fighting back against a terrorist attack.

The 67-year-old went through a remarkable transformation to play a much younger man and was feeling quietly confident when Eastern Eye caught up with him. He spoke about Fighter, his character, transformation for the film, and the stunning success of Animal .

Did you expect your film Animal to become such a huge global success?

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Well, everybody connected with a film who works hard on it wishes it becomes a huge success. But nobody usually expects it to be a blockbuster hit. With Animal, we always knew it was going to be a successful, good film, because the core of the story was a father-son relationship. But none of us expected it to reach such heights and become a monstrous blockbuster.

After so much success during a glorious career, how much does it mean to you when one of your films becomes such a big hit?

Well, it makes you happy and you feel more re – sponsible. And of course, it’s a kind of validation, especially when it comes from the audience.

Then, of course, all success always helps your future projects, career and choices. You get more offers to choose from.

But you also have to be careful after such a big success. I’ve been very fortunate to have been part of a lot of successful films and al – ways tried to keep my feet on the ground.

 Tell us a little more about the high success rate you have enjoyed?

My choice has always been good filmmakers, good people, good producers, and good characters that I’ve never played. So that’s al – ways the pursuit. Of course, success means a lot, especially when you spend more than four decades in this business and you be – come part of such a huge blockbuster with all young actors working with you. It feels great and validates the hard work you put in. You get the fruits of that effort.

Lead inset Anil Kapoor in Fighter 8 2
Kapoor in ‘Fighter’

What did you like about Fighter when the film was offered to you?

Well, I liked my role. I had played an army officer in Pukar, but never portrayed an air force officer, who are the elite group of the armed forces. So, being a commanding officer in the air force was something that really appealed to me. Of course, Siddharth Anand was directing the film. I had never worked with Hrithik and Deepika, which all made it even more exciting for me to do the film.

Tell us about your character?

I play Group Captain Rakesh Jai Singh, call sign ‘Rocky’. He is very much in control of the situation, and has these young pilots, who he is commanding, inspiring, and motivating. He will do anything for them because they are like his children. He would go to any extent to protect them and the country.

He loves his nation and his officers very passionately. He is there 24/7 to motivate them into winning and understanding the importance of teamwork. For him, it’s always a team effort, and not individual glory. That’s what he believes in.

Is it true that you lost 15 kgs for this character, as has been reported?

No, that is too much. I didn’t lose 15 kgs, I think I lost about eight or nine. I had to do it, because the character demanded that I get into these overalls and play someone much younger than what I am. I lost weight, but I also needed to look fitter and younger. And playing the commanding officer, I had to lead by example, not only in terms of what I am, but even physically. Commanding officers being fit meant I had to look fit. So, I had to really go all out and prep myself and look like the character, both internally and externally.

 You look amazing in Fighter. Where did you get those cool aviator glasses from?

They are vintage glasses I had bought in Los Angeles when I had gone to the US for the Slumdog Millionaire press junket [ahead of the Oscars in 2009]. I had picked up the glasses from a vintage shop. The cool aviator glasses I’ve used are one of my favourites. I really enjoyed wearing them in Fighter – there is no better film that I could have used them in.

Do you have a favourite moment in this movie?

I have a lot of favourite moments, so it’s very difficult for me to choose just one. Every frame, every moment was different and fun to do. It’s one of my favourite characters and films to be part of. I was very fortunate to be part of this film. There are some phenomenal scenes in the film, and you should all watch it. I think every moment is very special.

What about the flying?

Among my favourites, of course, were the tough moments in the film with the flying bits, where we had to fly wearing the overalls and the mask. Not much of your face is seen and still you have to try and express what the character is feeling and what you’re going through.

The mask was definitely a very new and tough experience for me, playing the commanding officer.

What was it like working with Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone in this film?

What do I say about Hrithik Roshan? He is the epitome of hard work, fitness, good looks and sincerity. I can’t imagine anybody else in the country playing his role.

I’m working with Deepika for the first time. She is so beautiful, attractive, talented, professional and a great team player. She suits the role. They make a great pair and people are gonna see them sizzle onscreen. Besides looking great, they have given phenomenal performances in roles that you will have never seen them portray before.

Deepika and Hrithik also looked great in their air force uniforms.

Anil Kapoor 49 58 6

Anil KapoorDid you learn anything new while working on this film?

Obviously, there was a lot of things I learned because we shot at one of the biggest and best air force bases, which was fantastic. We met all these officers and learned so much from them. I had never been in a fighter jet and learned all the technicalities of flying it. Wearing those overalls and getting into the aircraft was great. I understood the value, depth, intensity, hard work, and difficulty of flying a jet. We used this Russian Sukhoi aircraft, which is very expensive, heavy as hell and hot inside. It was a tremendous experience to get inside it.

Who are you hoping Fighter connects with in particular?

I think Fighter will connect with everybody from youngsters to family audiences. Everyone who loves their country will connect with the film. Of course, it’s very entertaining and a rollercoaster ride from the first frame to the last.

It’s a very Siddharth Anand movie and has all the plus points associated with him as a filmmaker. It’s something he has never done before. So that’s what makes it big and more exciting. You must have seen his earlier films Pathaan and War, which were very successful. But Fighter is really special because he’s raised the bar as a filmmaker with this.

Tell us more about that?

He has aerial duels and creates the kind of cinema which nobody else has ever done on the Indian screen. Something very, very spectacular. We all are proud of what he has done in this film, which is absolutely breathtaking. The sequences, scenes and energy, only he could have done it.

Why should we all go watch Fighter?

You should watch it because of the filmmaker, star cast, story, and hard work we all have put in with sincerity and commitment. There was an Indian Air Force officer constantly on the set. It’s a very, very entertaining film – you will not know when it began and ended because it’s so absolutely breathtaking. Besides that, the music has become a blockbuster and the songs have been picturised beautifully. So, everything is going for the film. Just go and watch it and have a good time – the two hours and 40 minutes will fly by. You have to see it to believe it.

You seem to be making all the right moves. What is the plan going forward?

I have just been fortunate. I’m very grateful that all these filmmakers came to me and offered me these roles, and I just grabbed them with both hands. Like The Night ManagerAnimal and now Fighter.

In terms of the plan going forward, there are a lot of films and shows which have come to me. I’ll decide which one I will do first. So, I am looking forward to more movies and entertainment. For now, watch Fighter on the big screen, including IMAX and 3D.

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